HC Deb 09 April 1891 vol 352 cc142-60

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [23rd March], " That the Committee do consist of Twenty Members."—(The Lord Advocate.)

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.

(4.10.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)

moved, as an Amendment, that— The Committee do consist of all the Scottish Representatives and 30 other Members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection. The hon. Member said: Seeing that the Amendment was moved on a previous occasion, it is not necessary that 1 should trouble the House with my reasons for arriving at the opinion that the matters entrusted to this Committee should be considered by the whole of the Scotch Members. I do not propose to do anything that would prevent the main object of appointing a Committee from being carried. There is a great desire in Scotland that some measure dealing with Scottish Private Bill Legislation should be carried through this House without delay. I have, however, some reasons to give why the Committee should be composed of the whole of the Scottish Representatives, with the addition of 30 other Members nominated by the Committee of Selection. It is eminently a matter upon which the opinion of the Scottish Representatives should be taken. It is proposed to withdraw the consideration of Scotch Private Bills from the Representatives of the nation, and to hand them over to something like a bureau. I suggest that 30 English and Irish Members should be added because it is impossible for the proposals of the Government to stop at Scotland. It is almost certain that the system will be extended from Scotland to England and Ireland, and it is therefore only fair that the Committee should have the experience of English Members. My last reason is that, if my Amendment is * adopted, the time of the House will be saved, seeing that it will prevent the whole business from being gone through again.. I beg to move the Amendment of which I have given notice.

Amendment proposed,

To leave out the words " Twenty Members," and add the words "all the Scottish Representatives, and Thirty other Members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection."— (Mr. Munro Ferguson,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, " That the words ' Twenty Members ' stand part of the Question."


The hon. Gentleman can hardly expect that the Government will accept this Amendment, seeing that it is most desirable that the Bill should receive confirmation this Session, and that there should be no unnecessary delay. It is not necessary to say that the acceptance of this proposal would render that absolutely impossible. The proposition of the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Munro Ferguson) is that the proportions of the Committee should be very widely altered—that all the Scotch Members, 70 in number, should be upon it, and that 30 English Members should act with them. The Committee has been struck in accordance with the usual practice as to the balance of Parties upon it. As regards the proportion of Scotch Members the Amendment really makes no substantial improvement as far as the adequate representation of Scotland is concerned. It gives a proportion almost exactly of 14 in 20, whilst the Government proposal is 13 in 20 of Scotch Members. The essential objection, however, is that if the Committee is so constituted, the responsibility for the measure would really pass out of the hands of the Government and of the majority of the House, and, accordingly, so far from the proceedings in the Committee being a saving of time, they would probably give rise to difficulties which would have to be rectified, if at all possible, by the action of the whole House. I may remind the House that when the subject was discussed before the Easter Recess it was intimated by the Front Bench that this matter should be discussed very briefly when it was taken up after Easter, but that the sense of the House as to the composition of the Committee should be at once taken.

(4.15.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)

No doubt the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Leith would give a very large Committee, but the Committee proposed by the Government is a very unsatisfactory one. It has been struck in accordance with the present method of striking Committees, but that is a method which has only been in operation for two or three years, and I think it is one which is working very badly indeed. For my own part, I very much prefer the old plan, which provided that if a Committee consisted of 20 Members, 11 should be selected from Members representing the Government side of the House and nine from the Opposition. The Committee proposed by the Lord Advocate has been struck in a very curious manner. The Liberal Whips are responsible for seven Members, and they have put down the names of seven Scotch Liberals. We are anxious that Scottish Representatives should predominate upon the Committees that are appointed for the consideration of purely Scottish questions; and two years ago, owing to the pressure that was brought to bear upon the Lord Advocate, an important Committee was nominated which comprised the whole of the Scottish Representatives. The right hon. Gentleman, however, was afraid that he had gone a little too far, and therefore he struck off his own colleague, the then Solicitor General for Scotland, and replaced him by a Scotchman who had, unfortunately, been unable to secure a Scotch seat, but represented an English constituency. Consequently, all the members of the Committee were Scotchmen, and all represented Scottish constituencies except one. Five of the Committee proposed by the Lord Advocate are Scottish Members who belong to the Conservative Party; in addition there are three English Conservatives, one Irish Conservative, two Liberal Unionists, one Irish Conservative, and two other Irish Members. Now, this is purely a Scottish matter, and I think the English and Irish Conservatives might give way to Scotch Conservatives. As to the two Liberal Unionists, I look on them as Conservatives; and as to the one London Member, I do not think his services are required at all on such an occasion. Then, again, we have one Irish Member who is at present some 6,000 miles away. He was in America when his name was proposed, and he has now gone 3,000 miles further West. But even among the Irish Members there are sub-divisions, because we have the Parnellites and anti-Parnellites. Judging from what has already taken place, I think the Parnellite is to be considered as a Government Member. [Cries of " No ! "] Well, in Ireland the Parnellites are the allies of the Government. [Cries of " No ! "from the Government Benches.] Personally, this Session I have had some experience in regard to the serving of Nationalist Members upon Public Committees. We were three or four weeks considering our Report, and although the matter was one which very much affected Ireland neither of the Irish Members put in an appearance.

An hon. MEMBER

What was the Committee?


I am speaking of the Colonisation Committee. As the present matter is one which wholly affects Scotland, I think we should have a very different Committee from that which has been suggested by the Government, and it must not be forgotten that in similar circumstances, not long ago, we had a Committee composed of the whole of the Scottish Representatives, with one or two English Members placed upon it in order to give advice in regard to English procedure. That was the course pursued in reference to the Scotch Police Bill, and it worked extremely well. I certainly do not think that the Committee proposed by the Lord Advocate would be a proper one for considering the question of Scottish Private Bill. Procedure, and the probability is that a great deal of time would be wasted, because the Committee would not secure the confidence of the Scotch people and the Scottish Representatives. I regret very much that the Government are not prepared to meet the Scottish Members in a more amicable spirit. The only thing, however, we can do is to protest against the composition of the Committee, and move the striking off of the names of the English and Irish Members.

(4.20.) MR. CAMPBELL-BANNER-MAN (Stirling, &c.)

My impression in regard to the question before the House is that there is a more substantial agreement among us than appears to be the case at the first view. The object that we on this side of the House have in view is to secure that the Select Committee to which this Bill is to be referred should be of sufficient importance to deal with the matter. We regard the subject as one of first-class importance. The proposal is to constitute a new tribunal for Scotland for the performance of a large part of the duties at present fulfilled by Parliament itself. My hon. Friend who spoke last has implied that this is so purely a Scotch question that English and Irish Members are not in their proper place on the Committee. I cannot say that I share that opinion. Undoubtedly the Bill has nothing to do with England or Ireland; but equally without doubt the same principle will in turn be applied both to England and Ireland, and it would be strange indeed if no English or Irish Members were placed on the Committee. What we want to secure is that there should be a substantial foundation of Scotch Members before we proceed to add English and Irish Members. It has been pointed out that there are 13 Scotch Representatives proposed by the Government; but I do not think that such a Committee is adequate to deal with this large question. The proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Leith is that we should take the course which was suggested by him years ago in reference to the Local Government Bill. It was then proposed that the Committee should be composed of all the Scottish Members, with 30 Members added by the Committee of Selection. It must be admitted that this would be a very large Committee for the consideration of a subject which, although of the first importance, is much more limited in its scope than the subject of Local Government. I think the Government have been informed what it is we really want, and, even after the speech of the Lord Advocate, I would venture to appeal to the Government to meet us by increasing the size of the Committee. What we want is to have a thorough consideration of the Bill by the Scotch Members, with, at the same time, some English and Irish Members. I think that 20 Scotch Members and 10 Irish and English Members would be an adequate tribunal, and I believe that by making that concession the Government would quicken the progress of the Bill. There is but very little difference between US. We are all agreed, in the main, as to the principle of the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman has described as being the principle of local inquiry. There is no difference of opinion on that point, and I think the Government might, with advantage to the progress of business, accept the proposal I have made. We have no object in the matter except to assist the Government in passing such a measure as shall carry out the wishes of the Scotch people in this matter.

(4.29.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH, Strand, Westminster)

I think the right hon. Gentleman will see that the proportion of Scotch Members will be the same if his suggestion were adopted as in the proposal of the Government, and that he would get no addition of Scotch Members. It is the desire of the Government that the Bill should not only be considered, but passed as the result of the deliberations of the Committee; and, therefore, I submit to the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be better to have a small Committee than a Committee consisting of a large number of Members? I think the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken in supposing that at any time the Government accepted the proposal he has made. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has no desire to do otherwise than find some method by which the two sides of the House, and particularly the Scotch Members, can arrive at a decision, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with the Committee as guaranteeing the adequate consideration of the Bill.

(4.31.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

Dealing with the question from a practical point of view, I think I can bring a strong instance to prove that my right hon. Friend has more justice on his side than the right hon. Gentleman opposite. There is the case of the Police Superannuation (Scotland) Bill, which was referred to a Committee, the majority of which were Scotch Members, and they devised a scheme which was accepted with great satisfaction by Scotch Members, and which in the course of the Debates on the English Bill was regarded with great envy by many English Members. The success of that Committee was due to the fact that it was composed of Scotch Members who were interested in the question and who could bring energy, knowledge, and industry to bear on it. I earnestly wish the right hon. Gentleman would follow the example set by his own Government on that occasion, and grant a Committee to deal with Private Bill procedure as the Committee last Session dealt with police superannuation in Scotland.

(4.34.) SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

This Bill is a bad Bill, and it ought to be referred to a large Committee, something like a Grand Committee. I may, perhaps, be permitted to protest against the idea that in their absence the Independent Members for Scotland are to be bound by whatever the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton may say about the time the discussions will occupy. I think the right hon. Gentleman went a little too far in stating that the discussion of this subject would only occupy an hour and a half.

(4.35.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

After the personal attack my hon. Friend (Sir G-Campbell) has made upon me, I must tell him that he has certainly read a very inaccurate account of what took place. I made no attempt whatever to give an undertaking on behalf of the Scotch Members. In fact, the Scotch Members were represented not only by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), but by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridge-ton (Sir G. Trevelyan). What took place was this: A Scotch Member complained that the matter had not been taken on a Friday night before the Easter Recess, saying that it would not have occupied more than an hour and a half. The First Lord of the Treasury, as he had a right to do, adopted the statement, and assumed that if an hour and a half was sufficient then it would be sufficient on a subsequent occasion.


What I read was a statement quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, as reported in the Times.

4.37.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

I may be permitted to say that there was no attempt to bind the Scotch Members, and we are aware that in the case of my ton. Friend behind me (Sir G. Campbell) such an attempt would have been entirely ineffectual. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, if I understood him rightly, bases his argument in support of resistance to the present proposal solely on one ground. He says the Bill would get much more quickly through a small than through a large Committee. That may be so or not, but I am disposed, for the sake of argument, to concede it. But permit me to say that is not the only or the main question. The main question is, with what amount of authority will the Bill come back from the Committee? The object of referring Bills to Committees of this kind is to save the House the trouble of labouring through the clauses. This is the ground on which the Scotch Members are in favour of the Amendment before the House. I must say I think there is great force in that consideration, and that it applies especially to a case of this kind. The question is by no means an easy one; and if it were not an easy one, 1 think the Government would do wisely in obtaining all the assistance they could and the sanction of as large a portion of Scotch opinion as represented in this House as they could. On these grounds I think it would have been wiser to accede to the proposition before the House.

(4.40.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE, Lincolnshire, Horncastle)

I should like to point out that this is not a proposal, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, to refer this Bill to a Grand Committee; it is a proposal of a wholly different character. A Grand Committee is a Committee that takes the place of a Committee of the whole House. It is not proposed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith to refer this Bill to a Committee constituted on that principle at all, but to a Committee of 100 Members, before whom the discussion would be of a very lengthy character. Our desire is, firstly, that this Bill should be thoroughly considered upstairs; and, secondly, that it should afterwards be passed. We believe it would pass by referring it, first of all, to' a Committee of reasonable dimensions, and for this reason: We admit the measure contains novel principles, and we believe those novel principles will best be discussed by a small Committee than by a Committee composed of so many Members as 100. We think our proposal is the better one in the interest of the Bill itself, and we claim the support of all those who desire to see the Bill passed into law during the present Session.

(4.44.) MR.HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)

The right hon. Gentleman has altogether missed the point of this Amendment. The point is not whether the Committee is to consist of 20 or 100 persons, but whether it is to be a Committee representing Scotch and Liberal opinion, or English and Tory opinion. According to the suggestion of the Lord Advocate the Committee will be so constituted that the voice of the Scotch Members may be entirely overpowered, and a Bill brought out of the Committee which may be at variance with Scotch opinion, although it may not even be in conformity with English opinion. Hon. Members ought not to deceive themselves by irrelevant questions as to the numbers of the Committee. The question is, whether Scotchmen are to have their own way or not. I am persuaded it will be said in Scotland, "Here is a measure exclusively Scotch, and yet the Government say that the Scotch people shall not have their affairs managed according to their own ideas, but according to English ideas."

(4.48.)The House divided:—Ayes 189; Foes 136.—(Div. List, No. 119.)

Main Question again proposed.

(4.58.) MR.E.ROBERTSON (Dundee)

Before the Main Question is disposed of, I wish to say it is not my intention to move the Amendment of which I have given notice, substituting for the name of the hon. Member for Leeds that of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire. Of course, it is hardly necessary to add that my Amendment was in no sense directed against the hon. Member for Leeds personally, but intended simply to carry out the wishes of a great many Members on this side of the House who come from Scotland, that the Committee should be largely, if 'not entirely, Scotch. I am not particularly sorry that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Leith has been defeated, and I do not desire to renew the discussion upon it. But, as allusion has been made to the feeling which is said to exist in Scotland in favour of the main principle of this Bill, perhaps I may be permitted to say a few words upon that point. I admit there is a strong and general sentiment in Scotland in favour of some kind of local inquiry in connection with Private Bill legislation relating to Scotland; but I deny entirely that there is any feeling in favour of the particular method the Government have adopted for solving the question. The great objection to the Bill is that the Government are interpolating into the proceedings of the House an alien and extraneous body, to whom they are giving a power unknown in the House. If the Government will refrain from tying the hands of the House in disposing of its own business; if they will not give to any official or judicial persons the right of amending a Bill in its progress through this House, or the right to stop a Bill, I venture to say all difficulties will be removed. I do not know whether I am quite in order in making this suggestion now, but I should be glad to have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman on the subject.

(5.0.) MR. W. H. SMITH

I am afraid I should be out of order if I proceeded to enter into a discussion of this matter now. On the part of the Government, I can only say that we are anxious that the Committee should have a free hand, and I believe it would be in the power of the Committee to consider the suggestion made by the hon. Member.

(5.1.) MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)

The alternative suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling Burghs, that the Committee should consist of 30 Members, is one that meets with the approval of Scotch Members generally; and as my right hon. Friend stated at length the reasons upon which that alternative proposal recommended I will now limit myself to the Motion that 30 be substituted for 20.


It is incompetent for the hon. Member to do that, the House having decided that 20 shall stand part of the Question. The Question now is, " That the Committee do consist of 20 Members."

(5.2.) DR. CLARK

Am I to understand that the Government are not willing to yield in the slightest degree, and are determined to have this Committee constituted as they propose? Now, the predecessors of the present Government, when they had an important Scotch Bill before the House, admitted after the Second Reading the principle of Scottish Home Rule, and referred the Bill to a Committee of 25, upon which Committee there were no Irish Members and only a few English Members, and these last were included because of their special knowledge of the working of the Public Health Act in England, and so in the arrangement of a Public Health Act for Scotland the experience of these gentlemen was of value. So the principle, that a Bill bearing exclusively upon Scotland should have its details determined by a Committee of Scottish Members, was admitted by the predecessors of the present Government.


The hon. Member would be out of Order in discussing the Bill or the number of Members now.


I am arguing Sir, in favour of the omission of the names of English Members.


That will come afterwards on a Motion to substitute one name for another. The Question now is, "That the Committee do consist of 20 Members."

Question put, and agreed to.

Ordered, That the Committee do consist of 20 Members.

Mr. Gerald Balfour, Dr. Cameron, Mr. James Campbell, Mr. Campbell-Banner-man, Dr. Clark, Mr. Arthur Elliot, Sir Archibald Orr Ewing nominated Members of the Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Flynn be one other Member of the Committee."—(The Lord Advocate.)

(5.8.) DR. CLARK

I should like to ask who is responsible for the nomination of Mr. Flynn, and if Mr. Flynn is willing to serve. As I am going to make an objection to another name for the reasons I have mentioned, so also I will take a Division against this name of a gentleman against whom there is no other objection, and who is one of our allies on this side of the House. The late Lord Advocate conceded the principle that an exclusively Scotch Bill should be con- sidered by a Committee of Scotchmen, and even the present Government carried the concession further with the last Scotch Bill referred to a Select Committee. All the Members proposed for that Committee were Scotch Members, though when the Solicitor General was promoted to a Judgeship, they appointed an English Member to replace him on the Committee. Eighteen of the nine--teen Members of the Committee on the Police Superannuation (Scotland) Bill last Session were Scotch, and the nineteenth was an old Scotch Member, and, probably, did good service on the Committee as such. But the Government are now going back from the principle they then conceded, because, I suppose, they think that the Home Rule idea is dying out, and they can oppose it with greater success. But in that they are mistaken, as later on they will discover. I object to the name of Mr. Flynn, simply because I think this Committee should be composed entirely of Scotchmen.


I think my hon. Friend would do well to withdraw his objection. We hope this Committee will prove a practical success, and it will probably set a precedent of the greatest importance for other parts of the Kingdom. There is no personal objection to Mr. Flynn, there is not the objection to him that there is to another gentleman nominated, that he is at the moment thousands of miles away. I am informed that Mr. Flynn will be in regular attendance probably during the whole time the Committee is sitting. I think myself it is most unfortunate that several extremely valuable Scotch Members are not included in the Committee, but the proposition being what it is, I doubt whether we shall improve the composition of the Committee by displacing one of the Members from Ireland whose attendance on the Com-anittee will be possible.

Question put, and agreed to.

Sir Julian Goldsmid, Sir Edward Harland, Mr. Hunter, Mr. Leng, Mr. M'Ewan, Colonel Malcolm, Sir Stafford Northcote, nominated Members of the Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, " That Mr. O'Kelly be one other Mem ber of the Committee." — {The Lord Advocate.)


I must object to the name of Mr. O'Kelly, who is at this moment some 6,000 miles away.

(5.14.)The House divided:—Ayes 213; Noes 124.—(Div. List, No. 120.)


With reference to the last Divison, I may be allowed to say that if any hon. Member had communicated with me to the effect that there would be an objection raised to the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon, I should have been most happy to have met the objection and the wishes of the minority by submitting another name to the House.

Mr. Charles Parker, Mr. Secretary Stanhope, Mr. Mark Stewart, and the Lord Advocate nominated other Members of the Committee.

Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records.

Ordered, That Five be the quorum.

(5.25.) MR. SPEAKER

Three notices of Motion for Instructions to the Committee stand on the Paper. The first of these stands in the name of the hon. Member for West Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) instructing the Committee that they have—

" Power to insert Clauses in the Bill to provide that Railway and other Companies desiring to obtain Parliamentary powers to close, enter upon, or interfere with a right of way shall serve notices upon the council or councils of the district within which such right of way extends."

That refers to a preliminary procedure which is now subject to, and under the jurisdiction of the Examiners, and governed by Standing Orders in relation to Private Bills. True it is, that under a section of the Bill, County Councils and Town Councils may make reports upon a Bill; but that is after the Bill has taken its formal and definite shape. This proposal would alter the preliminary procedure previous to the Bill being presented to Parliament, and is, therefore, outside the scope of the present Bill, and contemplates an alteration in Private Bill procedure previous to the Bill being put into the form in which the House is asked to adopt it. This Instruction, there fore,cannot be moved. The next Instruction is in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), that the Committee shall— "Have power to make provision for the simplification of the procedure and the reduction of the cost of Provisional Orders." The right hon. Gentleman will be in Order in moving that. The third Instruction in the name of the hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division (Mr. Caldwell) is to give the Committee— Power to substitute a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament for the Commission as set forth in the Bill, and that the Joint Committee or Commission, as the case may he, he empowered to dispense with local inquiry. This would be quite out of Order. It is a proposal to substitute an entirely new tribunal for that proposed in the Bill, and it will be in the recollection of the House that in the Debate upon the Second Reading the House rejected an Amendment embodying a similar proposal.

MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)

May I ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, after this ruling, and if local inquiry is the essential principle of the Bill, the Government intend to proceed with a Bill involving so great a constitutional change as the exclusion of this consideration from Committee of both Houses of Parliament?


I do not know whether I shall be in order in answering that question now, but I think I have answered it repeatedly, and we adhere to our proposals.


I gave an undertaking before we separated for the Easter Recess, that I would not make a speech on moving my Instruction, and to that undertaking I adhere. My simple desire is that the Committee should not have a mandatory, but an optional, Instruction, and may, if they think fit, deal with the question of simplification of the procedure and reduction in the cost of Provisional Orders. In this, I believe, may be found a remedy for the great cost and delay in Private Bill Legislation —in an extension of the Provisional Order System in Scotland. I have it on the authority of the President of the Board of Trade that 37 Provisional Orders were granted last year without opposition, and at comparatively small cost, and I think it is desirable that the Committee should have the option of considering the question as regards-Scotland. So I formally move the Instruction with no desire to initiate a-Debate now or fetter the action of the Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

" That it he an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision for the simplification of the procedure and the reduction of the cost of Provisional Orders."—(Mr. H. K. Fouler.)
MR. A. SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)

I will only say a few words in support of this Motion. There are cases in Scotland at the present time in relation to-which a reduction in the cost of Provisional Orders would be highly beneficial. The Government have intimated an intention of granting money for piers and harbours, and this is highly appreciated by the localities. The best way of managing such harbours would be to constitute Harbour Trusts, and, I think, in this respect, it is of the highest importance that the Government should accept the Instruction of the right hon.. Gentleman.

(5.30.) MR. W. H. SMITH

I at once acknowledge the spirit in which the-right hon. Gentleman the Member for-Wolverhampton (Mr. H. Fowler) has acted up to the understanding at which we arrived before the holidays; but the Government find themselves in this position. They are passing an Order, relating not to Provisional Orders, but to Bills. They are desirous that the Committee stage in both Houses of Parliament should be undertaken by a Commission or Committee sitting on a Bill. That is a totally distinct kind of procedure from that respecting Provisional Orders. We are prepared to consider the question of Provisional Orders, and, if necessary, to appoint a Committee to inquire into it.


I cannot quite follow some of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. He says the Bill has nothing to do with Provisional Orders; but, as a matter of fact, it does deal with Provisional Orders, in as much as private legislation is necessary to confirm Provisional Orders. Then he says, if any change is made with regard to the procedure as to Provisional Orders it ought to be simultaneously proposed for England, Ireland, and Scotland; but that observation would apply to all the private business of this House with quite as much force. A very slight inquiry into the condition of the feeling in Scotland on. the subject, as disclosed before the Committee which sat a few years ago, will show that the greatest complaints were made by the Scotch witnesses with reference to the very class of business dealt with in Provisional Orders. The complaints as to the cost and the cumbrous nature of the present system were addressed much more to the want of greater freedom with regard to Provisional Orders or larger powers on the part of Local Authorities than to any alteration of the system of Bill procedure. The right hon. Gentleman says the Government will consent to the appointment of a Committee to inquire how the system of Provisional Orders may be extended and facilitated. If we are to understand that as a deliberate proposal made by the Government, I think my right hon. Friend might very well withdraw his Instruction. I should be glad, however, to have a distinct understanding on the matter.

(5.37.) MR. E. STANHOPE

I do not think there is really any great difference of opinion between the two sides of the House. The Committee which is to consider this Bill will receive evidence from Scotland, and undoubtedly it will receive representations with regard to the working of Provisional Orders in that country. It will be perfectly competent to the Committee, when they have dealt with the Bills before them, to make a Special Report to the House on the subject of Provisional Orders. That being done, the House can instruct the same Committee or appoint a fresh Committee to go into the question of Provisional Orders.


I presume, then, that no Instruction is necessary to enable the Committee to inquire into the question of the Provisional Orders.


Subject to your ruling, Sir, I should think it would be open to the Committee to consider the subject of the Provisional Order Bills.

(5.38.) DR. CLARK

I hope the Government will reconsider this point, because one of the things we want to avoid is to have double fight. Undoubtedly if a Provisional Order is unopposed, it is a cheap and easy means of obtaining Parliamentary sanction to a scheme, but if it is opposed a double fight becomes necessary. As the Secretary for War has indicated that it is only a question of procedure, I trust measures will be taken to prevent double fights taking place.

(5.39.) MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)

Mr. Speaker, I should like to put a question to you upon this point. —whether in your judgment it would be competent for the Committee to go into the question of Provisional Orders without an Instruction?


I think it would be much safer to adopt an Instruction. If the Committee were not empowered to deal with the question of Provisional Orders they could' not embody recommendations respecting them in the Bill, although they could make a Special Report.

(5.40.) DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton. It must be obvious that what we wish to do is to simplify and cheapen the process of obtaining Private Bill Legislation on Scottish matters. The Secretary of State for War has admitted that the best course to adopt would be to consider the two modes of procedure together. The right hon. Gentleman let slip that expression. If we do not do that—if, before deciding what we are about to do in the matter of Provisional Orders, we proceed to settle our machinery for Private Bill legislation —it seems to me we shall be putting the cart before the horse. The first thing to do is to see how we can simplify the existing system, and then we want to see what we can do in the way of improving the present system of Parliamentary inquiry in regard to Private Bills by investigation on the spot. There is another point of order that suggests itself. You, Sir, have held that the Instruction proposed to be given by my hon. Friend and Colleague the Member for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow is out of order as contrary to the principle of the Bill, as affirmed on its Second Reading. The First Lord of the Treasury, when speaking of the proposition of the Government on this matter told us that the principle was local inquiry by a Commission or a Committee. My hon. Friend proposes to give the Committee on the Bill the option of choosing between these bodies. You, Sir, have told us that an Instruction giving that option to the Committee would be contrary to the principle of the Bill; and I should, therefore, like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he adheres to his statement that the Government are prepared, if not to accept, at all events to consider a suggestion for the substitution of a Joint Committee of this House and the other House of Parliament in lieu of the Commission proposed in the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman, from his description of the principle of the Bill as a local inquiry by a Commission or Committee, appears still to entertain the idea mooted in his correspondence with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs. I wish to ask if it would be competent for the House to give effect to that idea after your ruling, Sir?

(5.45.) MR. SPEAKER

The Commission will have power to hold local inquiries.

(5.45.) DR. CAMERON

Yes; but I am referring to an alternative proposal that there should be a Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament, which was seriously put forward by the First Lord of the Treasury in his correspondence with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs.

(5.46.) MR. W. H. SMITH

I am anxious that there shall be no mistake in this matter. The correspondence the hon. Member refers to was definite in its character. The body which is to conduct the local inquiry is to consist of two Commissioners and Representatives of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. That is a modification which we undertook to accept in Committee. As to Provisional Orders, the Bill itself includes all Bills for the confirmation of Provisional Orders. The Government have no objection to the principle of the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton; on the contrary, they desire to lessen the cost of, and to simplify the process of, Provisional Orders. But they desire that this Bill shall be passed this Session, and they do not, therefore, want to load it with words that may imperil its passing.


I understand that the proposal now is that the Committee shall first examine the Bill before it, and that then it will be open to them to proceed to the simplification, and the modification of the expense, of Provisional Orders. That will satisfy hon. Members on this side of the House, if Mr. Speaker is of opinion that it can be done.


On that understanding, I consent to the Instruction.


The Instruction is "to make provision for" and not "to inquire into." If the House thinks that the distinction is immaterial, I will put the question as it is on the Paper.


I would suggest that it would be better that the words of the Instruction should be "To inquire into and make provision for."

(5.50.) MR. W. H. SMITH

It is desirable that the two inquiries should be distinct, because it may happen that when the Committee has considered this Bill, they may desire to have an addition to their numbers from amongst the English and Irish Members, with a view to the consideration of the Provisional Order system as a system.

Question put, as amended,

" That it be an Instruction to the Select Committee on the Private Bill Procedure (Scotland) Bill, that they have power to inquire into and make provision for the simplification of the procedure and the reduction of the cost of Provisional Orders,"

—(Mr. H. H. Fowler,1)

—and agreed to.